The Divers' Game

Jesse Ball (Census) has fashioned a modern allegory about the brutality of society in his dark dystopian novel The Divers' Game.

In this imagined world, humans are divided into two groups, quads and pats. The former are refugees who flood into this unnamed first-world country, much to the chagrin of the pats, the existing citizens. The clash between these two groups leads to a series of inhumane laws. Quads are relegated to slums in the outskirts of the cities, where the rule of law hardly exists, and abusive guards, called helmets, reign by force. Quads are marked with a brand on their faces and their dominant thumbs are removed; this is how they're identified. Pats, living in the supposedly civil areas of the city, carry gas masks and gas canisters at all times. They are trained to use the gas to kill any unwanted quads in their neighborhoods. Laws have been changed so that pats may kill quads as they wish, without cause.

What makes this novel exceptional is the way Ball navigates this horrific world. It would have been easy to follow dystopian tropes, like setting up the quads for a rebellion. But that's not what Ball has in mind. He studies these two groups of people closely, allowing strange cultural practices to develop where human life is worth little. He's like an anthropologist of his own creation.

The Divers' Game is strange and gripping. Ball can be forgiven the sense of fatalism that pervades the work because the world he has created is not unlike our own. --Scott Neuffer, writer, poet, editor of trampset

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